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The BBC's Roger Hearing
"Both sides hope emotional ties across the border will make the border less important"
 real 56k

Friday, 1 December, 2000, 15:57 GMT
Joy and pain as Koreans meet
Chong Chae Gap, 66, from N Korea dances with his South Korean mother An Chun-ok, 88
Mother and son dance for joy
Korean families who have been separated for 50 years by the world's most heavily fortified border have met for the first time in private.

But as they got to know each other all over again, a political row was brewing in Seoul with the government accused of caving into the North.

Protester is arrested after demo against National Security Law
Several protesters were arrested
And on the streets, riot police clashed with protesters demanding the abolition of South Korea's national security law, which bans contacts with the North.

The angry scenes were in marked contrast to the bitter-sweet reunions going on behind closed doors as 100 North Koreans caught up with long lost loved ones.

South Korean sister Lee Song-ja gave her North Korean brother Lee Suk Kyun a letter from their late mother, whom he last saw 50 years ago.

Chang Ugicheon, 73, cries as she holds a sign asking if anyone has seen her sister
Chang Ugicheon holds a sign asking if anyone has seen her sister
Inside was a lock of her hair and a note. "This is Mum's white hair. When you wish to see Mum, touch and feel it."

"Sorry, Mother. I'm here too late," Mr Lee cried. His mother died six years ago aged 90.

Mr Lee was a student in Seoul when he was conscripted into the North's army during the 1950-53 Korean War.

He was one of 100 visitors from the North who flew to Seoul on Thursday to meet their relatives. The same number from South Korea are in Pyonyang for similar reunions.

Artists

One of the more extaordinary meetings was between two renowned Korean painters, one from the North and the other from the South.

Painters Kim Ki-chang and Kim Ki-man
Painter Kim Ki-chang was too ill to leave hospital
Kim Ki-man stroked the face of his elder brother, Kim Ki-chang, who is now close to death in hospital.

The elder Kim, 88, who is deaf and mute, showed he recognised his brother by shedding tears.

Kim Ki-man showed his brother a painting he had done to celebrate their reunion. "You may live long, until 100, let's hold a joint exhibition," he wrote on a pad.

Row

An estimated 10 million people belong to families divided by the demilitarised zone that has separated the two countries since the Korean War.

The current visits are the second such exchange since a landmark summit in June in which the two Koreas pledged to end hostilities.

But Friday's reunions were overshadowed by a political storm as opposition groups in the South accused the government of kowtowing to the North.

They were furious after learning that the head of the Red Cross, who was expected to play host to the visiting North Koreans, had gone abroad.

Chang Choong-shik had earlier angered Pyongyang with a media interview in which he said there was no freedom in the North.

Opposition newspapers said his absence for the reunions showed the government's grovelling attitude towards the North.

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See also:

30 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Korean families reunited
30 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Korean reunions
30 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas agree to search for relatives
16 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Joy and sorrow at Korean reunions
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